Carlisle United 2 Blackpool 1: In a recent interview, former EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said he had wanted to hold cup draws in space. The natural step, you might think, given the lack of atmosphere that continues to pervade his pet competition.

The Trophy, formerly the Checkatrade, unofficially the B Team Festival of Fun, continued tonight at Brunton Park, where a late Canice Carroll goal saw Carlisle beat Blackpool 2-1 in northern group G to keep their hopes in the competition alive.

If it’s space Harvey wanted, he would have found plenty here. Certain stands remained shut to supporters and there were gaps aplenty in the ones that were open; same as usual on these big Trophy nights.

Similar emptiness continues to be found at other grounds. The Trophy consistently lays on three-figure gatherings and those that creep over the 1,000 mark, and few that make you think: wow, people are really buying into this.

Yet the “rejuvenated” competition, designed – don’t laugh – to help the England team, goes on, regardless of public contempt and aggravated boycott. The distributing of “men’s football” to stockpiled, unready Premier League players matters more than meaningful lower-division action.

To those in the enfeebled EFL and their top-flight masters promoting the invasion of the Under-21s, games like tonight’s must be ever so quaint. How charming, these teams from the little leagues having a kickabout! Bless.

This Trophy, you see, is no longer for or about them. It might carry that pretence, especially when the “invited” teams have finally been bundled out (quarter-final stage last season), but, once hijacked, this car can’t turn back.

It remains disfigured by Premier League cash regardless. It is not about Calum MacDonald scoring or Ryan Loft equalising or Carroll hitting a winner or United suffering two injuries or anything it says about Steven Pressley’s future, but about whether hoarded players with squad numbers three times their ages get “minutes”.

It is not about the rare chance of Wembley for the lowest 48 (47 this year, given Bury’s demise, something those at the top might have noticed). It is about ideology, money, a ramming home of who is important in English football in 2019 and who might as well not turn up.

The views of Rick Parry, the EFL’s new boss who was at Brunton Park on Saturday, are not yet fully known on the debacle. In the meantime, we are treated to the divisive Harvey returning from the shadows to consolidate his reign. Last week he told the Telegraph that “history” will judge the Trophy revamp kindly, and that it is “working from a player-development perspective”.

What, though, about from a people-going-to-games perspective? You know, the point of staging public matches of association football in the first place?

Swerved, as usual. That is the problem with relying on history, you see. There are some facts that can’t be massaged.

Carlisle’s attendance here, 911, was the sixth lowest in their history, meaning that eight of the smallest 12 Brunton Park audiences have come since 2016 in this Trophy format. United, like many clubs, voted for this in spite of what their supporters told them. Like many, they are reaping what more knew was inevitable.

The dough is presumably worth it – and even if it isn’t, they are not allowed to say. Competition rules advise club personnel that to “disparage” the Trophy could bring sanction.

This, then, is what the old Associate Members’ Cup, the former preserve of proud third and fourth-tier clubs, has become: take the money and shut up. The beautiful game indeed.

The match itself? Oh, go on then, if you must. For what it’s worth, the small crowd saw Pressley make nine changes only for one of them, Harry McKirdy, to last 19 minutes before limping off, struggling to put weight on his right foot.

The Trophy gives in all sorts of ways. A fresh injury concern (Jack Bridge came on) and then a goal behind: another head-slapping moment, as MacDonald’s driven effort from the left somehow squirmed through keeper Louis Gray’s grasp.

At least there weren’t many people here to see that. United struggled to make attacking headway, Ryan Loft stabbing wide on 40 minutes, but then the Leicester loanee equalised with a deflected shot that dipped in.

That was the first half. Afterwards, Bridge picked up an injury himself, the sub subbed in a second period of little notable incident until Nathan Thomas, on for Loft, had a 75th-minute free-kick tipped over, Gray denied Ewan Bange and Thomas then hit the post.

As the game opened up, Blackpool grew more slapdash and United looked the likelier winners. Carroll duly belted an impressive shot past a wrongfooted keeper Chris Mafoumi from 25 yards, three minutes from time.

Then it was over, Carlisle’s second night in this season’s tarnished tournament, officially watched by 911 but ignored by many more. One more to go in the group, Morecambe away next month: another modest gate guaranteed, whatever else happens at United from here.

“It is important that we listen to supporters,” said the EFL’s communications director Mark Rowan this summer. In space, however, no-one can hear you scream.

United: Gray, Branthwaite, Hayden, Mellish, Elliott, Iredale, Carroll, Scougall, McKirdy (Bridge 21, Sagaf 65), Loft (Thomas 66), Sorensen 6. Not used: Robinson, Charters, Kerr, Birch.

Goals: Loft 45, Carroll 87

Booked: Mellish, Carroll

Blackpool: Mafoumbi, Anderton, Edwards, Guy, Shaw (Bange 72) MacDonald, Spearing, Nottingham, Scannell, Hardie (Gnanduillet 53), Delfouneso (Turton 58). Not used: Howard, Heneghan, Tilt, Husband.

Goal: MacDonald 25

Booked: Spearing

Ref: Darren Handley

Crowd: 911 (216 Blackpool fans)